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January 13, 2010

Bloc Québécois on foreign policy

The Canadian Charger

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"The international community should buy up the Afghan poppy crop for making medicines," said Francine Lalonde in a wide-ranging interview with the Canadian Charger in Ottawa.

"The international community should buy up the Afghan poppy crop for making medicines," said Francine Lalonde in a wide-ranging interview with the Canadian Charger in Ottawa. 

Lalonde is the foreign policy critic for the Bloc Québécois. 

Of course, poppy production is related to the poverty of the population, since it is such a valuable cash crop.  She noted that there were no poppies when the Taliban were in control.

The Bloc supported Canada joining the Afghan conflict in the beginning because of the al-Qaeda connection, but “now we [Canadians] have done our duty,” she observed. 

The Bloc favors an early departure but takes no position on what the United States should do.

 It is the Bloc’s view that the engagement in Afghanistan has been mishandled from the beginning.  Lalonde said that there was not enough spent on aid early on. 

“That war can’t be won by arms,” she said. 

Turning to the Middle East, Madame Lalonde expressed disappointment in President Obama’s behavior in the Israel/Palestine conflict. 

The U.S. position on the issue of the settlements has wavered back and forth.  On the one hand, Obama said that the settlements need to go, and then came the pronouncement that with Netanyahu’s so-called freeze Israel had never come so far. 

As someone who has engaged in union negotiations, Lalonde said that what Obama was doing is not the way one negotiates.  Yet, she held that American power and pressure are essential if negotiations are to occur.  “It is extremely important that the conflict be resolved in order to assure peace throughout the Middle East,” she said.

She has visited Palestine and Israel “many times,” she said, and she declared that it is “impossible to live like the Palestinians,” both in the Occupied Territories and in Israel itself, where Palestinian villages are in much poorer condition than neighboring Jewish ones.  Access to water is one major concern among many others.

According to Lalonde, Canada should take a more neutral position in the conflict, and she regretted that the Liberals were not pushing the Conservatives on this. 

She met many Israelis, and it is clear that the conflict is instilling a violent attitude toward the Arabs among the young people.  “This is serious because they have to live together,” she commented. 

  1. What Israel has become is so different.”  

It was her experience in Israel that Israel sees Palestinians as threats. 

She mentioned meeting in Quebec with Dr. Azmi Bishara, the former head of the Balad Party in the Knesset. His vision was of a single state for all its people. 

  1. “When I was in Israel, I asked a Jewish professor what he thought of Bishara’s idea of a state for all the people of Israel and Palestine, and he was adamantly opposed, insisting on a Jewish state.”   

In recounting this encounter, she shook her head.  By contrast with this Israeli frame of mind, she reminisced about how it was when she was a young supporter of Quebec independence.  She and her comrades had a generous attitude, “open to the world.” 

Commenting on the current divide between Gaza and the West Bank, she related a conversation that she had had with Yassir Arafat when a delegation of MP’s met with him. 

It was at a time that Fatah was trying to engage in negotiations with Israel, but Hamas at the very same time had opened a suicide bombing campaign. “I asked him, ‘Does Hamas have the same agenda as you have?’ and he replied that Israel created Hamas to undermine Fatah.  He then gave examples of how Hamas interfered with Fatah’s efforts.”

Finally, the conversation turned to the new Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, which is not an official Parliamentary committee.

The Bloc will be watching the direction that the coalition takes, and if it becomes an organization that links opposition to Israel and its policies with anti-Semitism, the Bloc will oppose that direction and perhaps withdraw, she said. 

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Dotan Rousso. Holds a Ph.D. in Law—a former criminal prosecutor in Israel. Currently working as a college professor in Canada.

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